Managing Psychological and Emotional Pain
This month IrrititableBowelSyndrome.net is featuring discussions about coping with IBS related pain. If you take a quick look at my articles, you’ll see a good portion of them are about recovery, mental health and wellness. Because of this, I was anxious to put my two cents in with regards to this issue. While it is true that most serious illnesses may cause mental health related pain related to anxiety, depression and such, I truly believe that the psychological and emotional toll taken by IBS is unique and incredibly painful. It really becomes about creating a plan and learning to cope in the healthiest way you can. In the hopes that all of us engaged here on this site can relate to each other in some way, I will share my experience with the psychological and emotional pain that IBS can cause.
IBS and mental health
As I have mentioned before, I had anxiety and mental health related issues long before I was diagnosed with IBS. From what I understand, this is not uncommon amongst folks suffering with IBS. I had spent years getting my mental health under control and learned how to cope with the very real pain and suffering that living with mental illness can cause. I was so dedicated to my recovery and my wish to live a life free of anxiety, mood swings and depression, that I was able to become stable enough to work in social services, with a wish to support others struggling with the same types of problems. The point of all this, is that on that day I went to the GI doc and they told me I had IBS…I was very, truly; stable. Since then, I have found myself struggling again due to the many, many stressors that IBS places on your self-esteem, your physical ability to function and your sense of empowerment. No one wants IBS. Just the very nature of the disorder is disturbing. Even though I had been experiencing IBS symptoms prior to my diagnosis (obviously), once I started reading about IBS and the fact that it can’t be cured and all that…my heart just sank.
After really bad flare ups I get blue and depressed. In between, I get worried and anxious about when it is going to happen again, what will happen if I eat the wrong food, what if I can’t have a normal relationship and on and on and on. This is NO WAY TO LIVE. So, how to cope you ask me? Well, I will try to explain my approach in a few words.
How to cope?
First things first, please try to judge your psychological symptoms honestly. I know that many people will seek help for anxiety and depression from their family doctors. While I’m sure many are equipped to deal with mild cases of nerves or the blues, they may not be the best option once things get past a certain point and these psychological and emotional symptoms become a constant part of your life. In this case, it is important to find a specialist. There is no shame in seeing a therapist or a psychiatrist. There is an overwhelming stigma associated with mental health issues, just as there is with IBS. See the specialist, work with the specialist and accept that it may take time and perhaps be a bit uncomfortable. Open yourself up to the help. Otherwise, please look into taking back your happiness by doing all the things we know we should do to keep ourselves well. Do not isolate; enjoy the outdoors. Do not couch potato; please exercise. Do not drink booze; drink good tea and water. Do not sit and worry; listen to music. You get the point. Someone said, ‘Stop hating yourself for what you are not and start loving yourself for what you are.’ I think this says it all.
Do you live with any sleep disorders (eg. insomnia, RLS, sleep apnea) in addition to IBS?